The (Computer) Tower of Babylon I

You’ve Got Mail


Frank Sveva, Editor-In-Chief

The first installment in a multi-part series chronicling the history of our relationship with the internet, attempting to discover whether or not the tower has fallen and what to do when it finally does.  

Progress is often viewed in hindsight. We go on through our lives blissfully unaware of everything going on around us, until one day we wake up and our world is unrecognizable. Similarly, the internet has been evolving under our noses over the course of nearly 30 years. The humble days of patiently waiting for the busy hums and whirls of dial up to end, steadily evolved into a limitless and hyper-interactive stream of free information. This unmatched display of ingenuity and human progress gave us unlimited possibilities for just how much our lives could improve, but it quickly slipped through our fingers like a rope of sand. The internet was comparable to a fresh start for society; it was an opportunity to right the wrongs of modern life and progress towards a future worth living. If only it had turned out that way. 

The expedient adoption of the internet into our lives is something to marvel at in and of itself. What we currently know as an anonymous hive of buzzing and unhinged content began as merely a connected system of networks used to host and share information. The near-unquestioned implementation of e-mail in the workplace during the late 80s and early 90s as a method to optimize communication was the first step in the internet’s gradual takeover of our lives. 

There was unanimous intrigue surrounding the way the internet worked, and by the end of the 1980s, every house in America had a computer with internet access. This made it easier than ever to get online and explore everything the expanding internet had to offer. With the widespread integration of computers in the American household, it was only natural for e-mail to leave the office and come home. The groundwork for our modern digital communication had been laid, and there was no turning back.  

Looking back, it’s almost impossible not to feel a strange existential paranoia watching past generations, infamous for their resistance to digital change, be so welcoming to the Trojan Horse of their downfall. Is it prophetic? Were they the first to realize the mistake of cyber integration? The unrecognized consequences of e-mail in our lives have become normalized to such a frightening degree, that simply pointing it out echoes the feeling of speaking an open secret.

 We now live in a world where we can never be truly free of our responsibilities. Schools and businesses can reach us at any time via e-mail, depleting our already very limited personal time. If these “off the clock” emails are ignored, there could be drastic consequences alongside scrutiny from peers and supervisors. Gone are the days of enjoying the long weekend, as we anxiously refresh our email every hour out of fear for who might need us.